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Georgia: 25,000 protest at 'School of Assassins'

By Michael Graham

Columbus, GA - 25,000 protesters arrived at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia to participate in the 2007 SOA Watch vigil to close the School of the Americas, Nov. 16 -18. The SOA, which trains military personal from Latin America in subjects like counter-insurgency recently changed names. It is now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, but name changes can not take away the bloody history of this tool of U.S. imperialism and oppression. SOA graduates have been implicated in killings, torture and massacres.

These vigils have been happening for 18 years and are a time for all those concerned with social and economic justice in Latin America to come together. On the third day of the vigil, Sunday, Nov. 18, the atmosphere was somber when the names of those people who have been killed by graduates of the institute were read.

Jeremy Miller, a member of the University of North Carolina at Asheville Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) was moved during the Sunday event, saying, “All this murder and injustice that the U.S. is perpetrating in Latin America, it makes me sick, and I think specifically of the billions spent on Plan Colombia. I think it’s our duty as American people to speak out against it, like the people here are doing, and we have to show solidarity with the people of Latin America and their fight to be free from U.S. imperialism.”

Chapin Gray from the Tuscaloosa chapter of SDS, who spoke to the crowd on Sunday, later said, “SDS comes to the SOA Watch vigil see the SOA terrorist training camp shut down, but beyond that to take a stand against the U.S. government and what the multinational corporations are doing in Latin America. In our individual chapters we try to do actions in solidarity with Latin America, like our protesting Drummond coal corporation for its murders of trade unionists in Colombia. SOA, Drummond, Iraq they are all intertwined in the broader picture of U.S. imperialism. That’s what we are trying to fight against.”

This year eleven protesters aged 25 to 76 bravely crossed the barriers into Fort Benning to demand the school’s closure. Many who have done so in the past have received months-long sentences for trespassing. The police also arrested four individuals who were carrying white crosses, each having a name written on it of one of the victims of SOA graduates. The police said the crosses were beyond certain allowed dimensions and that they could have been used as ‘deadly weapons.’ They were charged with obstructing a police officer.

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